I’m always a bit sad when we transition to this most beautiful time of year. I will miss the summer. And I will miss the swimming. We go swimming a whole lot. It’s one of the only things I do really well as a dad: I take the kids swimming several nights a week. It’s a great way for us to end a long summer day. And, to everyone’s delight, it’s one of the few places that I can’t bring a cell phone with me. So no work texts or calls to interrupt our fun.
This year, we set a goal of branching out a bit from our two favorite city pools and trying to go to the other four. These always looked small and boring in the online pictures, so we’ve never been to them before. While our favorite two pools have water slides, the rest just looked like over-sized backyard pools with nothing much to do other than lounge. We were wrong! They were wonderful.
We got to discover Boise’s two oldest city pools, which are true gems. They were built in the 50’s and were designed to look retro even back then, with their 1930’s art deco style. They’re elevated pools, completely above ground, which is surprisingly fun in its own right. You get a cool view of the surroundings just by standing on the edge of the pool. And they aren’t super crowded. That means lots of diving board time. And it makes for nicer lifeguards, who even let you free swim in the deep end. We spent a whole night diving for quarters in the 12-foot water.
Which brings us to this week’s story:
I have a brother who, like me, lives in Boise. Mike is my closest sibling in age, and we’ve always been close in every other way, too. To be honest, we’ve also always fought a lot. But we can save that for another week.
Mike and I are both nurses, and even get to work together occasionally. I contract into a few different hospitals in Boise, and he works full-time at one of the big ones. Once we even got to document a dose of insulin together—a task that requires two nurses since it’s a high-risk medication.
This year, Mike and I each finished additional nursing degrees at Western Governors University, an online school based in Salt Lake City. I don’t know how much of a stigma there still is about online schools, but this one is a fantastic institution. I’m proud to have gone there, and I’m grateful for the opportunities it’s provided me to pursue education while still being a dad and still having a demanding job that takes 60+ hours a week and includes weekly travel all over the western US.
Because we would both graduate at the same time, we got together earlier this year and planned a trip down to Utah so that we could walk in the commencement ceremony together. It seemed like a really cool idea at the time. But as we got closer and closer, the plan lost a lot of its appeal.
I absolutely hate driving to Utah in July or August. It’s hot and horrible. Everything is dead. Going anywhere but the pool is a drag. And nobody I’m related to keeps their house anywhere close to cold enough.
Plus it started to sound really expensive. Not just in money, although that was a piece. But also in time and energy. That’s a lot of driving and a lot of kids getting restless and a lot of sitting at commencement, and a lot of opportunity lost from other work or fun that could be had during the driving and hotel segments of the trip.
So, about a month ago, we mutually agreed that we didn’t care about commencement anyway and that we should take a portion of what we would have spent on travel and put it toward renting a pool for a private party to celebrate our graduation. That would be a really fun experience. It would be easy. It would be relatively cheap. And who needs all the ceremony anyway?
Last night was the party. True to form, both Mike and I worked the whole day right up until it was time to go. He picked up an extra shift at the hospital; I went to an all-day service project with the scouts. We both got there worn out, hot, and ready to enjoy ourselves. Mom and Dad were also able to come up and join us. That was wonderful for the kids and even better for us, since we made them pick up the cost of the pool rental.
Ready to go, we went inside, started changing into swim suits, and began setting up. It was then that I first realized Mike and I were in for some additional surprises. Our mom and our wives had clearly conspired to make the night more eventful than either of us had expected. I had figured we’d just swim and maybe have a cooler with chips and soda. But they started setting up and decorating a table full of amazing food. They put up balloons and banners. And they also kept sneaking around, whispering intently to each other and to the lifeguards.
Meanwhile, since we weren’t allowed to help, Mike and Dad and I had a long conversation about how much more fun this was than driving to Utah and sitting through commencement. The week had been busy for everyone. The weather had been horribly hot. And, as we discussed at length, the cap and gown were silly anyway. They were too expensive. They were, as Hugh Nibley once famously called them, the “black robes of a false priesthood.” We even said that caps and gowns were bad for the environment.
And that’s when the big surprise came.
Our wives called the group to order and rolled out their secret plan: a graduation ceremony. To be sure, it wasn’t completely traditional. But they had bought us caps and gowns in WGU colors, complete with 2015 tassels. We posed for pictures together. We hugged parents. We celebrated. And we even did a ceremonial walk with Pomp and Circumstance playing over the pool’s loud speakers.
It’s just that our “walk” was actually a full-sprint race across the pool’s inflatable obstacle course.
At a moment just before we jumped into the water, my Dad gave me a big hug and told me that he “couldn’t be more proud” of me. I saw our shadow behind us—a shadow of me wearing a cap and gown while hugging my dad.
I couldn’t believe how badly I’d wanted that moment all along. And I couldn’t believe that Wendy knows me and loves me so much that she could give me something I didn’t even know I wanted. That itself was an amazing realization that gave energy and uplift to the whole night.
As things were finally winding down and everyone was getting tired, we all talked about what a great night it had been. We also all agreed that it would be hard to share pictures of the night because any friends or family who saw them would be insanely jealous of the great time we’d had. It just seemed cruel to share something like that.
But despite that risk, here are some pictures and videos of the wonderful time we had: